Phone Apps to Pay Music Stipends?
  • MarkB
    Posts: 865
    I recently worked with a wedding couple that did not have a checkbook. They had to get a checkbook to pay the wedding music stipend. They could have paid in cash but opted to get a checkbook.

    That got me thinking: fewer people are using checks or cash to pay for goods and services, and it will become more frequent to encounter among younger people those who prefer to pay for music services using phone apps.

    Do any of you accept or encourage payment of music stipends through apps such as Zelle, Venmo or PayPal?

    If you do, how do you tactfully communicate the means by which people may pay you? How do you provide them with QR codes or other information so that they can pay you using a phone app?
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,007
    Just two days ago I had a mother ask me if she could pay for her son's piano lessons with paypal. I told her that would be fine (not worried about it).

    I don't have any particular axe to grind with accepting digital payments. But if the trucker convoy in Canada, and most recently, Russia, have taught us anything, it's frightening just how quickly you can be cut off from digital money once the eye of Sauron turns upon you.
  • Mark,

    For the various pieces of work I do (musical and otherwise) I accept cash and cheques. I don't do any internet payments of any kind -- and have no desire to change that.

  • Caleferink
    Posts: 402
    I think it's wise to have such an option at your disposal, in addition to cash or checks. I've used Zelle and PayPal for direct payments. I actually think it's better than checks because funds are guaranteed to be there or else the other party can't try the transaction in the first place, whereas checks can bounce and then you have problems on your end.

    The ideal is to have one check made out for everything by the couple to the church and have it paid through the church. Same goes for funerals.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,744
    I didn't accept money directly from the bride/groom/family of the deceased. The church did the collecting then paid me.
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 488
    I use Venmo and PayPal pretty regularly in personal life. No issues with either and there are no fees to worry about for the kind of small-dollar transactions organists can afford to make. I have happily taken payment for musical work on them before, in the kind of situation where one big check is written by the event organizer to a bandleader, who then pays the sidemen their shares.

    However – I would be *quite* nervous about regularly using it for weddings/funerals, which provide a substantial portion of my income at St. X parish and really do need to be routed through church payroll as additional income beyond salary. Otherwise, you lose a good deal of money filing a 1099 and paying self-employment tax for all that $$$ (or you don’t report and risk an audit or worse). Better to have one big check to the parish far in advance of the date, and let someone else do the accounting and hounding – doubly so when there is a cantor to be paid.

    Putting it in writing on the church website that “the organist gets $300/wedding; send $300 on Venmo to @JohannSBach” feels like an invitation to the auditors.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW tomjaw
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,425
    In my non music job I accept, Bank transfer, PayPal, cash or cheque. Very few use cheques now... The PayPal is easily transferred to a bank account when needed. I spend a lot on PayPal for business so it is handy. This is the U.K. so it is easy for me to do the tax return, and prove the income using the print out from PayPal. The cash is more difficult and the Tax authority has to accept my word, as to what I have received.
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,773
    ^one of the unfortunate consequences of the US being at the center of the financial world is that while you can transfer money, we tend to farm it out to unregulated (or less-regulated-than-banks) companies instead of embracing ISO standards and SWIFT for all institutions. It's perfectly normal in Europe as tomjaw notes to do a transfer, and while mistakes can be made, the software does its best to stop them.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • At this point I list a Square invoice as my preferred method of payment. This allows me to invoice for music I had to order, or extra rehearsals with other musicians, it also allows me to invoice if I have to create a liturgy guide (this was important during COVID when we didn't have hymnals).

    I still accept cash or check, but only if I am flying solo.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,134
    I will not accept anything other than cash or check up front before parking my donkey on the bench to play a wedding. I have lost over $1,000 in stipends because couples arrived for the wedding and "forgot the checks": It's hard enough trying to track down people for tangible moneys, going digital just seems like asking them to stiff you.
    Thanked by 2MatthewRoth CharlesW
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,007
    One of the most awkward experiences of my life was having to go down and beg the father of the groom for my stipend after a wedding. They were supposed to pay beforehand, but didn't, and then I had to wade down into the family and wait during the portraits until the groom finally noticed and sent his father over to me. Dad was not happy. "Can't we just mail you a check later?!" ...no. That's not how this works, and I knew I'd never see that money, because they weren't parishioners.

    I have been stiffed on multiple occasions at my current post too. One couple I contacted repeatedly via both email and physically mailed invoice, but I was only met with radio silence.
    Thanked by 2KARU27 MatthewRoth
  • KARU27
    Posts: 184
    I contracted a string quartet years ago for a large Korean wedding. The father was supposed to pay me after the wedding. The quartet was invited to have dinner afterwards, so we did. Just before dinner, the father gave me an envelope. There was money inside, but only about a fourth of what we were supposed to receive. So we spent the dinner discretely discussing what to do, trying to figure out if it was just an error, or whether he stiffed us on purpose, etc.
    Then near the end of dinner the father approached me again with another envelope, and he indicated that the first envelope had just been our tip. Which was nice but very confusing (especially since I was still young and dumb).
    Now I hardly do weddings anymore, but I require payment a week in advance, and I use an AFM contract which has very stern wording.
    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,007
    AFM?
    Thanked by 1KARU27
  • MarkB
    Posts: 865
    For weddings I require payment of fees for all musicians in full one month in advance. Nobody has balked at that. That gives ample time for checks to clear. It would be the same if digital payments were accepted: those would have to be transacted a month in advance.

    In my wedding guidelines I stipulate that late payments not received by 10 days before the wedding must be paid in cash only. Digital payments would be as good as cash in the event I move in that direction. I also stipulate that if payments are not received by the fourth day before the wedding then unpaid services will not be provided.

    For funerals my guidelines request payment on or before the day of the funeral.
  • I have lost over $1,000 in stipends


    Roughly how many weddings?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,956
    AFM probably refers to the musicians' union.
    Thanked by 2KARU27 ServiamScores
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,437
    Paypal is easy and so far I've found it bug-free. I've heard that Venmo has sometimes been abused, so I don't use it.
  • KARU27
    Posts: 184
    Yes, AFM = American Federation of Musicians.
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,773
    I'm not going to second-guess anyone's prudential judgement about not using small-claims court to recoup the money, but it is an option which people forget about… I've never had to actually pay a fee for the funerals in our family (the parish both had enough to pay musicians and fees were at the pastor's discretion to a certain extent) but we usually provide an extra check to thank the musicians, and if there's lunch, they're invited. Although, this was funny. We swapped envelopes by mistake, and a musician got a $10 bill meant for a server, which my dad only realized when he was left with an "extra" check. We gave the MD the check to pass on in addition to the cash. (We've had no weddings thus far…)
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,134
    Chris: at least five at $200 a piece over the past 15 years (priests have been stiffed, too), and we don't have many, only a couple every few years (there have been more years without weddings than with). At this point, I'd basically resigned myself to the fact that I'll probably be doing weddings for free, since the parish was unwilling to compensate: thankfully, we've had a change in the business/financial/business end of things, with things being run by a feisty New Yorker, so "offer it up" and "Jesus did it for free" has been replaced with "this is your job, and you're entitled to payment".
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,744
    Once a well-off couple paid me in Olive Garden cards for their daughter's funeral. The pastor enacted strict guidelines after that ensuring we were always paid in U.S. dollars.
  • MarkB
    Posts: 865
    As I've researched this, Zelle merely facilitates transfers between bank accounts whereas Venmo and PayPal receive money into a separate user account from which funds can either be disbursed or transferred to a linked bank account.

    Zelle has confirmed that it is exempt from the new law this year that requires payment apps such as Venmo and PayPal to report business income to the IRS if it totals $600 or more during the tax year.

    I'm revising my music information packets for funerals and weddings to include QR codes that would enable people to pay fees using Zelle, Venmo and PayPal besides still accepting payment via checks or cash.
  • SponsaChristi
    Posts: 356
    Is email transfer not a thing in the US? The salon I go to doesn’t accept debit transactions because of debit fees, but they accept email transfers. Same with the movers I hire through U-Haul.

    I only use my cheques for choir uniform/music deposits and supplying void cheques.
  • SponsaChristi,

    Since I've no idea what an "email transfer" is, at least in my circles in the States, the answer is "no".
    Thanked by 1ServiamScores
  • MarkB
    Posts: 865
    Most person-to-person payment apps will let you send funds to a recipient using the recipient's email address, mobile number, username on the app's platform, or a QR code to specify the recipient. Better get it right, though, because if you enter an incorrect address or mobile number you generally have no recourse to recover misdirected funds.

    So, if designating funds for a recipient by specifying an email address within a payment app is what an email transfer is, then... yes.

    But funds cannot be transferred via a standard email message.
    Thanked by 1ServiamScores
  • SponsaChristi
    Posts: 356
    Since I've no idea what an "email transfer" is, at least in my circles in the States, the answer is "no".


    Bank apps allow you to send someone money to deposit in their account by emailing it to them. It’s a great feature.